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Publication date: 
July 5, 2022


Health care spending effectiveness is the ratio of an increase in spending per case of illness or injury to an increase in disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs) averted per case. We report US spending-effectiveness ratios, using comprehensive estimates of health care spending from the Disease Expenditure Project and DALYs from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017. We decomposed changes over time to estimate spending per case and DALYs averted per case, controlling for changes in population size, age-sex structure, and incidence or prevalence of cases. Across all causes of health care spending and disease burden, median spending was US$114,339 per DALY averted between 1996 and 2016. Twelve of thirty-four causes with the highest spending or highest burden had median spending that was less than $100,000 per DALY averted. Using decomposition results, we calculated an outcome-adjusted health care price index by assigning a dollar value to DALYs averted per case. When we used $100,000 as the dollar value per DALY averted, prices increased by 4 percent more than the broader economy; when we used $150,000 per DALY averted, relative prices fell by 13 percent, meaning that much of the growth in health care spending over time has purchased health improvements.


Weaver MR, Joffe J, Ciarametaro et al. Health care spending effectiveness: estimates suggest that spending improved US health from 1996 to 2016. Health Affairs. 5 July 2022. doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.2021.01515.